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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalAn essential part of owning a Sedro-Woolley rental property is deciding if you are going to allow tenants to have pets on the property or not. Be that as it may, support animals are not part of the no-pet policy for rental homes. A tenant can be allowed to have an animal on the property regardless of pet policy. This is possible, under certain circumstances, as provided by the Fair Housing Act. But, as in all rules, there are exceptions. It would be wise to get a good understanding of what the federal laws are, and if they apply to you. This can inform your decision in the event of having to reasonably deny a tenant’s request.

The Fair Housing Act and Support Animals

In general, the Fair Housing Act is a set of laws intended to prevent discrimination against tenants who belong to a protected class. This includes tenants who rely on support animals for either emotional or physical assistance. One facet of the Fair Housing Act that you should always bear in mind is that it classifies these animals differently from pets. So your no-pet policy usually isn’t a legal reason to deny a tenant’s request to keep a support animal on the property.

There are two basic types of support animals. Service animals are animals trained to perform specific tasks. A usual example of a service animal is a guide that has been trained to aid a person with impaired vision. The other type of support animal is assistance or emotional support animal. These animals don’t need any kind of training, unlike service animals that need to be trained for specific tasks. But, emotional support animals offer something else to their owners — support. For example, a cat that helps lighten the load of a person’s depression and anxiety or, a bird that is trained to notify a deaf person that someone is at the door.

When the Law Applies to You – And When It Doesn’t

For the most part, federal law states that property owners cannot deny a tenant’s request to keep either a service animal or an emotional support animal in their rental home. It is unlawful for you to charge a tenant a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must give documentation of the support their animal offers. This could be either a service animal certification or a letter from a medical or mental health professional describing the need for the support animal.

Yet again, there are some exceptions to this rule. The first exemption is that of property type. If your rental property is owner-occupied or is owned by a private organization to be used primarily by its members, the support animal rule does not apply. If you own less than three single-family houses, all of which are managed by you, the FHA does not apply.

Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. Another instance when you can reasonably deny a request is if you prove the tenant’s animal to be a direct threat to others on the property. The legal basis for the denial, though, cannot be based on the animal’s breed or size. It’s also probable that your insurance carrier can be an exemption. If your insurance provider turns down your landlord insurance policy or charges excessive amounts to grant the support animal on the property, you can successfully argue that you are unable to grant the tenant’s request reasonably.

As a Sedro-Woolley rental property owner, you have to realize that support animals and their owners have specific legal protections. Hence, best to do your due diligence when it comes to federal law. This way, you can be prepared to handle situations where tenants request support animals on the property. Learning the details of property management laws can be quite arduous. So, why not hire a company already well-versed in this aspect of the law? Contact us today to learn how we can make your life easier as a rental property owner.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.